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August 16, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Political Leaders: Fit for Office?

The Australian Federal Election finish line is fast approaching and opposition leader Tony Abbott will need to draw on all his superhuman strength and willpower to pull him across it. Abbott is no stranger to the strains of competitive endurance races, having earlier this year completed a gruelling Australian Iron Man challenge. This time, however, he will hopefully be wearing more than just his infamous red budgie smugglers and a goofy grin between those impressively large ears.

At the time, Kevin Rudd wished him all the best and admitted “If it was me, I’d probably collapse on the first leg.” No arguments from anyone there, K-Rudd. However, while Abbott’s sporting prowess was hailed by many as a great example of pursuing a healthy lifestyle in a nation plagued by obesity, federal ministers still leapt at the chance to bring the iron man down. Questions were raised about whether Abbott’s time spent in the pool detracted from his time dedicated to developing opposition policy.

It is fair to say that Abbott isn’t the only political figure intent on keeping in shape. In the 1970s, United States President Barack Obama was a part of the Punahou High School basketball team that won a state championship. Obama’s love affair with the sport was demonstrated in a game of hoops for the troops last week; LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and others teamed up with Obama to entertain wounded troops in Washington. Vladimir Putin goes even further when it comes to fitness fanaticism. The former head of the KGB allegedly begins every day with a workout involving weights and swimming. The Russian, labelled the political world’s original action man, also made an appearance in a fitness DVD alongside Olympic Judo champion Yasuhiro Yamashita.

While detractors of Abbott argue that his obsession with 5am cycles must be of detriment to his political suitability, his commitment to personal health goes further than providing the odd publicity stunt. It demonstrates a sense of devotion and a drive that the majority of people seem to appreciate. Indeed, John Howard used daily morning walks as part of a political routine to emphasise the depiction of Kim Beazely as physically unfit and consequently undisciplined. The election on August 21 will determine whether Tony Abbott really is a political iron man, or just a running joke.


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